A new breed of wellness hotels cater to healthy travelers: How two in Miami compare

The Epic hotel’s pool deck

Long familiar to Europeans, wellness hotels are a new-to-the-U.S. breed of urban hotels offering full-on spa programming. We recently reported on the spas making news in Greater Miami; now we’re taking a second look at how two taking part in this travel trend measure up.

Miami ab machine: a Core Fusion class at the Epic Hotel’s Exhale spa

Exhale Spa at the Epic Hotel, Miami
This brand-new Miami hotel and residence is right on Biscayne Boulevard, a stone’s throw from the Viceroy.
Vibe: A party feeling in the lobby and a fitness-focused one at the Exhale Spa on the 16th floor that touts the Pilates-meets-cardio CoreFusion philosophy.
Who’s here: The three studios are packed with fit 20- and 30-somethings working on their abs and asses in CoreFusion (take Kim Welby’s class) and yoga (Luciana Ferraz studied with Shiva Rea). Only triatheletes can do more than two of these classes in a day.
The experts: They’re young but tough. Instructors have to audition for the Core Fusion training program and not all who graduate are granted a spot. Book a session with the inspiring nutritionist, Autumn Raab.
The guest rooms: They’re identical, modern, and studio-apartment sized, with a King bed, balcony, computer, and a gorgeous bathroom that opens onto the suite.
The cuisine: There was just one restaurant when I visited, Area 31, and the menu, mostly sustainably sourced seafood, is quite good. But it was repetitive by day two, and I really wanted a juice bar and a seaweed salad.
Ideal weekend: Plan on three classes ($20 each), a Deep Flow Massage and a GRN or Kahina Giving Beauty facial (about $125 each) and make use of the gym, the gorgeous pool, and hammam (it’s really a steam room).
Piece of advice: Everything is a la carte, so call ahead to have the spa team put together a schedule of classes and treatments for you based on your goals.
What you’ll pay: Rooms start at $369, www.epichotel.com

Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa, Miami Beach

A guest room (well, suite) with a view at Canyon Ranch

It’s on the beach, flanked by residential towers, and is a 10-minute drive from South Beach’s wild nightlife.
Vibe: It feels like a Four Seasons Hotel, where everyone wears yoga pants. The spa is enormous, there are four pools, and healthy lifestyle is not just lip service.
Who’s here: Mostly 40- to 70-somethings. Some live here part of the year. Mostly couples instead of families and I can’t say I missed the pitter patter of little feet.
The experts: Canyon Ranch doesn’t do amateur. Fitness classes are run by accomplished dancers and athletes; and you can book time with shamans to sleep experts. If you’ve come to lose weight, schedule a two-part metabolic assessment with exercise physiologist Jeff Dolgan. The test (a treadmill run with mask) shows you where you should be, and how to get there with mathematical precision. Follow up with a training session, and one of the master’s level nutritionists, or Karen Koffler, M.D., who studied integrative medicine with Dr. Andrew Weill.
The guest rooms: They’re all suites with kitchenettes, 400-thread-count linens, a Zen design and fantastic bathrooms generously stocked with bathing supplies.
The ideal weekend: You can book a set program, or create your own a la carte program going from fitness class to treatments to lectures (e.g. “Should you go organic?”). I almost forget about the beach.

Ideal treatments: The Muscle Melt Massage ($250) and the Your Transformation Facial ($150); packages often include bundled treatment deals.
The cuisine: Canyon Ranch keeps to a spa cuisine code, and has cookbooks to prove it. The restaurant doesn’t feel special when you eat three meals there every day, but you will be solidly impressed with how low the calories and carbs are (they’re writ large in the menu) given how creative and satisfying the dishes are. I never ordered the wrong thing.
Service bonus: I was wowed throughout–for example, even while soaking in Aquavana, the hydrotherapy lounge, an attendant thoughtfully placed a towel under my head.
Weak link: There’s a map to the labyrinthine spa, and you’ll need it until you leave unless you have a GPS pocket watch.
Suites start at $450; right now two-night stays come with $200 spa credit and breakfast for two. www.canyonranchmiamibeach.com

Have you visited either of these wellness hotels? Share your impressions, here!

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